As recently reported in the Spinoff, union E tū has raised concerns that My Homecare signals that Geneva is setting itself up to compete for additional private work on top of the government-funded contracts it currently fills.

The union also has concerns ranging from privacy to favouritism, and the fact that support workers are being asked to embrace the new technology using their own devices with no compensation.

While workers are only required to post their first name, qualifications and language skills on the portal, they are encouraged to post pictures and personal details about themselves.

However, Geneva Healthcare is defending My Homecare, saying it is important to give customers choice.

“Personal care, by nature, is a personal right…so how empowering is it to get a say about who comes into your home?” says Geneva’s Chief Executive Veronica Manion. “We think that most New Zealanders would find it extremely reassuring knowing that they had a choice in who was coming into their home to care for them or a family member.”

My Homecare gives clients the option to manage their care services online including choosing the services they need and choosing their own qualified support workers based on carers’ skillsets, training, and location.  Clients’ requests are then reviewed by Geneva Care Coordinators so that the best match is made.

Geneva reports that it has so far received very good feedback from the DHBs where the platform is being trialled. It points out that it is line with the Code of Rights and The Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights, which specifies that clients have the “right to be fully informed” and the “right to make an informed choice and give informed consent.”

“My Homecare has been created with the people we care for in mind, New Zealanders who are vulnerable and in need of support,” says Manion, “It’s important for us to ensure that we give those people ‘a voice,’ after all, it is their life we’re talking about here.  We’ve listened to them and responded with a technology solution that gave them choice, control, and visibility of information that could assist them to make informed decisions.”

Manion gives the example of an elderly male client who had prostate cancer and needed assistance with going to the toilet, and spoke very little English.

“He and his family insisted on having a male support worker who could speak their language; and providing the right person to provide that support made a huge difference to his wellbeing”, she says.

With regard to ongoing concerns for better support worker pay and conditions, Manion agrees that the current payment for carer transport costs is not fair. She regrets that Geneva was not involved when the legislation was discussed and designed between the government and the unions. Manion is keen for Geneva to take an active part in reviewing this funding structure to look for better solutions.

Manion also addressed Geneva’s Support Worker Mobile App that automatically logs start and finish of cares, as well as carers’ travel times. The app helps give transparency and reliable data for government funding, however some support workers were initially concerned. Manion says a greater number of Support Worker are now singing the App’s praises.

“At the end of the day, we are dealing with people and managing the need for change.  Change can be quite scary but at times inevitable and something we need to embrace so that we can do our job.  The demand for healthcare services is always increasing, and we need to find smart solutions to balancing the funding pressure from the government with the need for more healthcare workers.  Automation is one solution that can help us to become more efficient and do what’s required of us.  The more we automate things, the more money we can use on giving back to our staff,” says Manion.

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